Merrillville kicker Matt Warren knows state trip could come down to him
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org November 14, 2012 11:22PM
Merrillville's Matt Warren kicks off against Lake Central at Merrillville High School during the regular season in October. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:16PM
MERRILLVILLE — Rarely does Merrillville have to kick the football.
The Pirates are averaging 46 points per game. They are, collectively, a big-play machine, specializing mostly in long touchdowns and two- or three-play scoring drives.
The thought, though, does exist for Matt Warren, their field goal kicker, that Friday could be the night.
You know, the night that he has to walk onto the Fort Wayne Wayne field, with the game tied or even worse, his team trailing by a point or two or three and nail that winning or tying kick against Snider.
It is both a terrifying and overwhelming thought, and a tantalizing one.
What kicker wouldn’t want to kick the winning field goal? Conversely, what kicker would want to miss a field goal with the game on the line?
It’s all about how you view it.
“That does keep me up at night sometimes,” Warren said.
Warren knows what it feels like to live a solitary existence in the most extreme sense.
He basically practices without the aid of a formal coach for a little over an hour each day. Sure, there are slots of time scheduled for directional punting and full team kickoff practice.
Most of his practice time is spent kicking field goals and punts. Game times are spent waiting for the rare punt or field goal and the constant wave of kickoffs he almost certainly will have to execute.
The independence and solitude the job requires is a perfect fit for Warren’s personality. An honor student, he took up kicking as a hobby in seventh grade after one of his middle school coaches asked him to give it a shot.
He was terrible at it at first. Gradually, over time and with repetitions, he became the Pirates’ best kicker. Merrillville has a long tradition of fielding some good kickers — Mike Megyesi (Indiana State), Ryan Stokes (Grand Valley State) and Nick Roberts (St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer) all kicked in college.
Warren followed Roberts. He started kicking his freshman year — probably a year too early, Merrillville coach Zac Wells said.
“He was really thrown into the fire,” Wells said. “He was just the next guy up. He really grew into it.”
Wells is happy with the job he has done. Warren has made 5-of-6 field goals this year with a long of 41 yards. He is adept at squibbing the ball or going short or deep on kickoffs.
“He’s a huge part of our game plan,” Wells said. “He’s good at directional kicking. He knows how to squib it. He’s good under pressure. He’s as valuable as any individual.”
He is also good at just figuring out what he needs to work on by himself.
“He’s an ideal kid to be a kicker,” Wells said. “He has that self drive.”
Wells said the coaches purposely leave the kickers alone.
“We don’t want to say the wrong things and get in their heads,” he said.
For Warren, perfecting the craft has been a matter of getting repetitions and working by himself year around. He’ll kick every day in the summer.
Last year, Wells gave him the option of playing wide receiver and kicking. Warren, who is a catcher for the baseball team, had played wideout in middle school. He decided not to get back into it. He knew the Pirates had a chance to be special this year and he also knew they had a bunch of skill players that would be ahead of him in the rotation. He figured his energy was best used trying to refine his kicking skills as best he could for the season.
“I just thought it would be better for the team if I just kicked,” he said.